REVIEWER: Guido Karp, photographer and founder, FansUNITED.
BACKGROUND: FansUNITED is a photo agency with a twist. Unlike traditional agencies in the music industry, this agencys photos are not only syndicated to the media but also sold direct to fans by mail and Web order. More than 7 million customers have purchased concert photographs from FansUNITED. We have a roster of well-known photographers and a list of licensed artists.
PLATFORMS: We use both Windows and Mac OS X-based machines.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Our ongoing challenge is simple: we have to maintain 7 million customer profiles, run a customer relationship management platform in 15 languages, and collect and send mail, text messages and other communications. We host 1.3 million high-resolution photographs and maintain e-commerce Web sites in several languages. We also have to manage all aspects of the events, such as organizing leaflets for more than 1,000 shows a year and the logistics of the tour hotels, flights and payments. We host two additional Web sites, one for FansUNITED and the other for the Princess for a Day tour. All this has to be orchestrated to perfection, because we have an extremely small staff.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: FileMaker Pro 10 is a full-featured relational database. The best part is its flexibility and power. We use it to manage everything from our online content, to the photos and images that are transformed in size with the help of a PHP script, organizing the venues, workshops and all of our financial transactions. We have 300 FileMaker databases, from a design database that confirms that leaflets are ready to an accounts database that handles financials, all linked to each other.
STRENGTHS: We use a mix of different computers and operating systems: some Mac computers, and a collection of Windows-based machines too. The cross-platform compatibility of FileMaker Pro made it an obvious choice for our environment and it is one of FileMaker Pros biggest assets. For our application, the most important strength of FileMaker 10 is its ability to handle any task we throw at it. Everything we need is provided by the database.
WEAKNESSES: The new interface of FileMaker Pro 10 is the most dramatic change in over a decade, so at first it can feel somewhat unfamiliar to use.
SELECTION CRITERIA: I chose FileMaker Pro because it was affordable and ran on both Macintosh and PC. Most importantly, we were able to understand the basics of the software right away and could easily transfer the million customers we already had at that time into FileMaker and take it from there.
DELIVERABLES: FileMaker handles business functions that range from accounting and marketing to venue management and logistics. One big key to success is the ability to link FileMaker databases together to automate most parts of our workflow. For instance, our address book will alert our volunteers that new shows have been added by automatically taking the ticket sales from our diary, venue information such as meeting place and time from our venue database, and then send communications (email, text message, Skype message, postcard, etc.) in various languages depending on the preference of the individual volunteer.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Customer support has always been excellent and responsive. We handle our own development, so we appreciate how easy it is to work with FileMaker. There is also a strong and enthusiastic developer community surrounding the software with a lot of expertise to offer.
DOCUMENTATION: Documentation for FileMaker Pro is exceptional. There's also a good online knowledge base for users. The online discussion groups are great. I have had many questions answered by joining a couple of the groups. A lot of FileMaker users are willing to share knowledge.
FileMaker Pro 10 FileMaker, Inc. 5201 Patrick Henry Drive Santa Clara, CA 95054 (408) 987-2747 www.filemaker.com
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